What Happened in Vegas: They Lost (And Game Preview)

This game was pretty forgettable as a whole. On the brightside they’re 0-2 against the D-League Select but 2-1 against everyone else. Really,  no one outside of Chris Johnson really stood out and was terrific at getting to the line again. Othyus Jeffers was pretty good still and so was John Holland, but no one else really stood out.

Robbie Hummel went 2-7. Welp.

Shabazz Muhammad shot 25 percent from the field tonight and some people are clamoring for his retirement. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t peak yesterday. Or at least I hope not. That wouldn’t be good.

Can we get more than four summer league games before holding a referendum on a player’s career?

No? Okayfinethenwhatever.

Really, you have to give the Select team some credit. They’re undefeated and beat the Timberwolves for the second time in five days, in part because they forced them into shooting 33.8 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from three. Despite also cutting back on their turnovers considerably, they still got beat on the glass, 47-38. Enabling the Select team to grab so many more defensive rebounds enabled them to prevent the Timberwolves getting any second chance points and also keeping them from building more momentum.

It may not have mattered if they had gotten more second chance opportunities given how the entire team struggled shooting, but it could have also given them some rhythm, which they desperately needed.

You Mean I Get a Preview, too? What Value!

Consequently, the Timberwolves will play the Portland Traiblazers team in the consolation bracket instead of the championship bracket. Which is a little unfortunate because it won’t start until 9:30pm central and I have no idea where it will air; NBA TV or ESPN 3 would be my guesses, though.

As for the Blazers, they lost again as well yesterday, this time to the Suns, giving them a 1-4 record. C.J. McCollum has starred for the Blazers with averages of 21 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game and 3.4 assists for the the rookie guard (His averages are much more impressive if you don’t look at this shooting efficiency.) The Blazers are full of players like McCollum who have nice averages, like Will Barton and Thomas Robinson, but have not reached those marks efficiently.

I will not be there for this one since I will be in the air during game time on my way back to Minneapolis, which is disappointing because this week has been a blast. But you can still follow me on Twitter anyway and use other Timberwolves people who will be in attendance and giving live updates.

 

Happening in Vegas: Timberwolves vs D-League Select Preview

Well, it looks like our heroes have finally found that consistency in being able to play a complete game and not just three quarters after winning two straight games. It’s also no coincidence that Shabazz Muhammad played well as the Timberwolves rolled the Kings last night 92-54. From top-to-bottom the Wolves got valuable contributions from all over their roster.

The Timberwolves let their first game against the Select team get away from them as the D-League got off to an undefeated start. A big reason that game got away was the crazy amount of turnovers the Timberwolves committed that gave the Select team life after a slow start of their own, but they curbed them yesterday and won big time. The Select froncourt with be a source of contention for the Timberwolves given the production of Mickell Gladness and Darnell Jackson to this point. Additionally, Elijah Millsap, brother of Paul Millsap, is a 6-6 guard who is second on the team in scoring.

Tonight’s game is at 5:30pm and if they win they play the winner of Bobcats-Grizzlies at 5pm Saturday instead of the loser of Suns-Blazers on Friday at 7:30pm.

Once again, follow @DerekJamesNBA for live-tweets from media row and look for the recap following the game.

Happening in Vegas: Oh, We’re Playing Again Today

The tough thing about being in Las Vegas to cover summer league is that, for starter’s, you don’t know how long you’re going to have to cover a team, and secondly, after the preliminary games you don’t know when that team is playing. Fast forward to this morning and that’s exactly what happened to me when I awoke to the updated schedule. So, today is game day with the Timberwolves playing the Kings at 7pm CST. I highly doubt this will be televised, so I would recommend keeping Twitter close if you’d like to follow the game, though I’m sure it will re-air later on.

For going 1-2 in pool play the Timberwolves earned the 13th seed, which is second of all teams with the same record and differentiated by things like quarter-by-quarter scoring (You get points in the tournament for things like wins, obviously, but a half point for things like winning quarters, which the Wolves have; they’ve just blown a couple of late leads, which is somewhat advantageous.) The winner of this game will play the undefeated D-League Select team at 7:30 CST tomorrow evening.

The Select team was the team that also defeated the Timberwolves in their first game.

Ben McLemore is of course a player of interest for the Kings. However, before yesterday’s terrific perormance McLemore look lost; you could almost say he bough his game at a “Thrift Shop”…eh….eh? No? Okay then.

Ray McCallum has also looked good for the Kings. The guard has shot .444 percent through three games with averages of 14.3 points , 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

As for the Timberwolves, they will need better from Shabazz Muhammad after yesterday’s win despite their victory. It looked like one of those days where nothing you throw up goes in, so this could very well be a return to the Shabazz that we saw against the Suns on Saturday.

I’m also counting on a Robbie Hummel redemption game today, as well as more strong play by Chris Johnson.

Additionally, while the Timberwolves have done a good job forcing turnovers, they really need to curb their own turnover issues. Through three games they are averaging 23 turnovers per game, which is in credible; the team finished with 28 alone yesterday. If they hope to play more games, enabling them to give their prospects more reps to grow with, then they need to take care of the ball better. Minnesota has lost momentum in each of their last games by giving up a couple of turnovers where the other team turns them around for easy baskets, and suddenly that once dormant team has found new life. Even things like Solomon Jones having three illegal screens on Saturday count and matter. In fact, Jones averaging 3.0 turnovers per game in 13 minutes per game is a big part of the problem, but he’s also far from the only one.

This may sound like a lot of thought put into a summer league, but it’s actually important. It matters to the Timberwolves and their future to get their prospects the developmental reps and it matters to the fringe players who aren’t just trying to woo NBA teams, but also those that are trying to impress D-League and overseas scouts also in attendance. So for guys like Lorenzo Brown, Demetri McCamey and John Holland, these games are huge for them, so that makes them a little more interesting.

Anyway, Timberwolves-Kings at 7pm CST. You can always follow along as I live-tweet from Cox Pavilion from @DerekJamesNBA or check the site following the game for my recap.

What Happened in Vegas: Timberwolves-Heat Recap

Evidently the third time is the charm as the Timberwolves finally earned a summer league victory with an 80-79 victory over the Miami Heat. Normally when you commit 28 turnovers you should have no business winning, but the Heat committed 20 of their own that, when combined with their subpar shooting, kept them from getting back into this game.

Shabazz Muhammad struggled shooting once again, going 3-10 from the field including a few missed hooks off of the basket. Shabazz clearly wants to be a dynamic inside-out player, but in order to do so he is going to have to convert those high percentage looks. Perhaps some that can be attributed to nerves or just typical ups and downs, but no matter what the Timberwolves will need him to hit those looks.

Gorgui Dieng looked better than yesterday, shooting 4-5 for six points and five rebounds. The Timberwolves still had a frustrating habit of leaving Dieng at the top of the key with the ball with no other player movement, leaving Dieng with two options that don’t play to his strengths: take the jumper or attempt to drive the rim. Typically these plays have ended in a turnover or a forced pass. It would’ve been nice to see more activity and communication in these sets because it seems like they stop running the play as soon as Dieng receives the ball. And I can promise that is not the play call.

Demetri McCamey (who played well yesterday) and John Holland started and gave meaningful contributions as the Wolves took the victory.

After a strong summer league to that point, Robbie Hummel struggled; shooting 1-5 and just three points, although he did manage to bring in seven rebounds.

After the Timberwolves nearly let a lead slip away last night but learned from their game last night by not letting their mistakes mount. For instance, if they committed a turnover they would turn around and force one or get a stop on the next possession– mitigating the consequences all together. Or they would miss a shot, but instead of getting frustrating they would go right back to the same player and the same spot to make it. It’s called having a short memory and not allowing the previous play to affect the future of the game. It’s a trait of team maturity, which feels weird to talk about while referring to a summer league game, but it can absolutely make the difference between a win and a loss as it did today.

This only matters if the members of this summer league team that will play next season for the Timberwovles carry this over to 2014. At the least, it’s encouraging, and will be needed given the various improvements many NBA teams have made, especially those in their own conference.

Timberwolves Lose to Suns at Buzzer; Hummel Continues to Impress

The main story of the Timberwolves’ 91-89 point loss isn’t their inability to finish off their opponent or the fact that they gave away an incredible lead in the fourth quarter. No, the important thing is the individual development of the important pieces the Timberwolves have an investment in into players that can help the team in any capacity.

While Shabazz struggled after the first quarter shooting the ball, he showed a willingness to pass that people were concerned wasn’t there. If he can carry this willingness into the regular season, in addition to refining his shot selection, he could make a valuable fourth or fifth option for the team.

Robbie Hummel continued to be awesome, posting 18 points on 7 rebounds in his typical high-energy fashion. If there was a way the Timberwolves could wedge him on the roster I would be just fine with that.

Chris Johnson played an okay game with 3 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, but did have 6 fouls in 25 minutes of court time. It was not a good night for Gorgui Dieng.

The surprise of the night was Demetri McCamey with 13 points on 5-7 shooting off of the bench. If there was a title for summer league hero, McCamey would fit the bill tonight.

Otherwise, the Wolves went 19-34 from the line, so Marcus Morris’ three pointer should be irrelevant anyways. It’s almost impossible to win shooting 55.9 percent from the line. Ya know, committing 21 turnovers is still a problem. All of these things caused the game to have that slipping away feeling late. Timberwolves forward Robbie Hummel confirmed as much after the game, saying, “You can feel it. It’s one of those things where you have to keep grinding it out and for awhile we did. They got it down to 10 and we pushed it back to 14-15 and they just kept coming and we weren’t able to switch it. But hopefully it’s something we can learn from.”

At any rate, the Timberwolves will return to action tomorrow at Cox Pavilion against the Miami Heat on a game that will be aired on NBA TV.

Happening in Vegas: Suns-Timberwolves Preview

Good morning or afternoon, depending on where and when you’re reading this! Sitting in my hotel before heading down to Thomas & Mack Arena to watch the Timberwolves and Suns game, and I’m happy to announce the coffee has kicked in for what should be another productive day out here. Hold on. There is one thing I need to address first:

Today’s game will not be broadcast in real time. It will be shown on tape delay tomorrow, Tuesday, July 16th, at noon CST. If you want to watch it in real time, while I don’t readily know where you could, you’ll just have to get resourceful in finding it. Otherwise, feel free to tweet me any questions you have about the game, because I probably know that stuff.

Now, this seems weird to do a preview for a Summer League game, and so far I’ve just rambled for 150 words, but the Suns have a few players of interest heading into this afternoon’s game. The Suns managed to acquire three underwhelming recent lottery picks : Kendall Marshall (13th overall in 2012); Marcus Morris (14th overall in 2011); Markieff Morris (13th overall in 2011). Guard Diante Christmas and forward Archie Goodwin are two other names of note, if for no other reason than hearing them mentioned in passing once or twice.

For the Timberwolves, all eyes will once again be on Shabazz Muhammad. It’ll be cool to see if Chris Johnson, Robbie Hummel and rookie Lorenzo Brown can continue to build that on-court chemistry together. Johnson midrange game, especially in the pick ‘n pop, was really fantastic on Saturday. And since I’d like to have a feel-good Monday at the arena, we hope to see Robbie Hummel do more good things.

Be sure to follow @DerekJamesNBA on Twitter for live, up-to-the-minute updates on the game straight from media row. Of course, there will be a recap to follow as well.

What Happened in Vegas: Game One Recap

Covering my first Timberwolves game in-person went about as much as expected in that it looked like the exhibition it was intended to be. At times, they looked great, but at others the offenses stagnated and the turnovers piled up. Either way, it was a pretty great experience despite the Timberwolves letting this one slip away to the D-League select.

Within the first few minutes of the first quarter it looked like the Timberwolves had things going as they opened up a double-digit lead. A big part of the Timberwolves’ early success was due in part to rookie Shabazz Muhammad who started off 2 for 3 from the field while converting from outside and just off of the block.

Minnesota entered the second quarter up 22-11 but their fortunes were quickly about to turn. The players that helped the Wolves build their lead in the first place — Muhammad, Kee Kee Clark and Chris Johnson — lost their rhythm, as the D-League Select’s Kyle Weaver and Other Chris Johnson gave their starter’s a lift. After only being able to score nine points in the second quarter, the Timberwolves found themselves trailing 32-31 at the half.

As the Timberwolves began the second half, they were going to need someone new to step up and ideally get some stops as well. They got one of those two as Robbie Hummel and Lorenzo Brown formed a nice two-man game, finding Hummel open for a nice three. Hummel finished the third quarter shooting 4-5 from the field after just 1-3 in the first half while adding 5 rebounds and 3 steals.

Nothing seemed certain as the teams entered the final frame with the Timberwolves down 59-55. Though Hummel had proven to be a valuable contributor and Chris Johnson nearly had a double-double at this point, the Timberwolves found themselves having a hard time not turning the ball over. No matter who your opponent is, if you front them 10 extra turnovers it’s going to be very tough to win, especially in close games. Attempting 8 free throws to your opponent’s 25 doesn’t help either.

(Derek’s Three ways to lose a close game: 1) Take bad shots; 2) Make turnovers like Arby’s; 3) Miss or don’t take many free throws. The Timberwolves did at least two of these. they could earn a pass for #1 since this is summer league and they were playing the D-League Select team.)

Halfway through the fourth quarter the Timberwolves had retaken the lead but at no point did it feel secure or like they were about to break this wide open. Which was a good instinct because they didn’t and the D-League Select walked away with the victory.

Notes: 

Shabazz Muhammad looked like a rookie in that he struggled with knowing when to take the jumper and when to attack. Muhammad went 3-7  from the field but the fact that he didn’t get to the line once is a bit of an issue, but that can be improved upon. However, he provided some solid post defense against other wing players, so that might be something.

And no, I don’t know what position he is yet since it’s way too early to tell. I suppose we’ll figure that out between now and the end of preseason. Hopefully.

Gorgui Dieng, the team’s other first round pick was a bit of a mixed bag, but played well as a whole considering his reputation for being raw. He showed some decent instincts defensively but will of course need to improve. Offensively, he needs some development but was able to provide them with a big body in the paint that acted as an incidental screen. Three turnovers and three fouls in his first D-League game isn’t the worst thing, though I wouldn’t expect too much from him this coming season (at this point).

– While Dieng develops it seems that the Timberwolves could have someone in Chris Johnson to bide them some time. With added size and a nice midrange game, Johnson was able to stretch the defense and drew taller defenders from the paint. A nice double-double on the night (11 points, 10 rebounds) but he committed 5 fouls in just 22 minutes, which he’ll have to improve upon if he wants to make any difference this season.

Robbie Hummel. Robbie freaking Hummel. Of course I say that with the most positive connotation. Hummel looked like a player who could one day have a role as a player on the back of a team’s rotation that can hit some shots and provide them with some energy. His two fouls and single turnover standout as much as  his 12 points on 5-9 shooting and 6 rebounds.